Tuesday, 30 April 2013

The Woodchat Shrike is back

A WOODCHAT SHRIKE was found early this morning on the meadows of Campo Carri - in the same place where it occurred two consecutive years (2010, 2011). The dates are also quite timely: 29th April in both 2010 and 2011 and on the 30th this year. Well a day later, but maybe the bird was already there yesterday, as nobody went to check.
Anyway I was on site by mid morning and the bird performed really well (see above). It wasn't so nervous as shrikes use to be. It allowed a closer approach and remained more or less on the same side of the grassland, at the border with the woodland and hedges. It also perched on an abandoned lamp (third photo). Nearby were also lots of Red-backed Shrikes (at least 5; just 1 female) and on one occasion both species were seen sitting together on the same bush (last photo above).
More entertainment was produced by 3 singing male Cuckoos and a crazy female flying around the grassland all the time and perching in full view on the pines (below).
Female Cuckoo performing well
Also in the area were my first Spotted Flycatchers of the year (at least 2), 1 male Golden Oriole (flying overhead), 1 Wood Warbler, 4 Tawny Pipits, 5 Whinchats, 2 Black Woodpeckers (flying above the woodland and calling loudly), some Crossbills flying overhead, 1 Goshawk, Linnet, Rock Bunting, Woodlark and so on. Very strangely no sign of the Wheatears.

Monday, 29 April 2013

GREAT SPOTTED CUCKOO

Yesterday a friend of mine brought me to see a GREAT SPOTTED CUCKOO on a secret site in Friuli Venezia Giulia (north-east Italy). The bird was immediately heard calling (fluting, vaguely Pygmy Owl-like calls) as we arrived on site. Later we saw it in flight and finally also perched on a low branch in a hedge, where it showed well for at least half an hour (pics above). When it took off again it made a brief flight and dropped down to the ground where it began to hunt insects in the tall grass in Magpie fashion. Stunning. Even if I already saw one back in 2007 (quite briefly) I was very happy to have the opportunity to see the species once again. Great Spotted Cuckoo is a very rare bird in north-east Italy and usually the odd individuals are seen in April or May. A few birds that occurred in Friuli Venezia Giulia in the past years also bred there. Also this bird seems to be quite settled and could be breeding in the area.
In the afternoon we wandered around the Friuli Venezia Giulia region quite a lot and amassed a good list of species. The more notable after the Great Spotted Cuckoo was a pair of STONE CURLEWS showing brilliantly in complete daylight (even calling at times). New birds for the season included Red-footed Falcon (3), Turtle Dove (+6), Western Bonelli's Warbler (2), Common Quail (2 singing) and Red-backed Shrike (1 male).

  Stone Curlews

There was a good migration movement around with tons of Whinchats (+50), good numbers of Wheatears, Common Whitethroats, Willow Warblers and Common Redstarts. Other birds of note also included Corn Bunting (very common everywhere), Yellow Wagtail, Tree Pipit, Hobby (1), Montagu's Harrier (1 male), Black Kite (2), Griffon Vulture (+10), Marsh Harrier (2 on migration), Crag Martin (colony), Hoopoe (2), Carrion Crow (1), Cuckoo (singing), Grey Partridge (3), Great Reed Warbler (2 on migration), Crested Lark and Woodlark. 
 
Local patch: yesterday morning also the first singing Golden Oriole from the house.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Magic southerly

Today was quite cloudy and a stiff breeze from the south provided a good opportunity to look for some newly arrived migrants. In the afternoon I headed to the grassland of Campo Carri on the Karst - my first visit this season. In the open areas the most obvious were Whinchats (+10) and Wheatears (+6) sitting on the low pines, together with 2 singing Rock Buntings and my first Tawny Pipit of the year. Some additional year's firsts came quickly later when a beautiful male GOLDEN ORIOLE flew over the open grassland and a HOBBY was spotted perching on a high-voltage wire. The latter remained perched there for about half an hour, before flying off and starting to hunt (see above). A singing Cuckoo and one or two Wood Warblers were in the nearby woodland, along with Chiffchaff, Nightingale, 1 Common Whitethroat, Mistle Thrush and other commoner species. Several Tree Pipits were also around on the open grassland area and one was even singing. In the air a notable movement of Common Swifts (+100 birds), Swallows (30) and a few House Martins.
The south wind proved to be quite good for raptor movement as 3 MONTAGU'S HARRIERS (2 males and 1 female) migrated northwards, one after the other. A female Marsh Harrier and 2 Kestrels, plus a (local) Goshawk were also moving above the grassland.

 Hobby (same as above)

 Wheatear

Whinchat

Tawny Pipit

 Rock Bunting

Local patch: migration today was visible also from home as the gardens held at least 3 Whinchats (2 m, 1 f) and a male Common Whitethroat, plus some Swallows flying past. A Tree Sparrow represented a patch year-tick. A quite scarce bird here.
The other day I also had a fly-by Yellow Wagtail above the coast, which was the 3rd record for the patch.   
Nightingale and Scops Owl are now heard on a daily basis.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Mt.Nanos with Ring Ouzel and flowers

Been on the mount Nanos (1262 m - above) in nearby Slovenia today, with a couple of friends from university. We had more of a botanical trip (which was pleasant), but we managed to see a couple of interesting birds as well. On top of the list goes a gorgeous male RING OUZEL feeding on a Crocus-covered meadow on the top of the mountain. It showed quite well for several minutes, until some trekkers passed by and flushed it. Always a cool bird to see and a year's first for me. Never seen one on Nanos by the way.
After midday, in the hottest hours of the day, 4 Griffon Vultures appeared above the ridge, slowly gliding SE over our heads. While walking up on the mount earlier in the morning we heard a singing Cuckoo, 1 Song and 1 Mistle Thrush, seen 1 Rock Bunting and several commoner woodland birds. Also around the top were lots of singing Tree Pipits and a few Skylarks, along with some Black Redstarts in the rocky valleys. Otherwise just more or less the usual upland stuff including Kestrel, Raven, Buzzard and so on.
On the botanical front Helleborus niger was perhaps the most interesting, together with carpets of Crocus vernus and an awful lot of Wood Anemone (Anemone nemorosa), Hepatica nobilis, still several Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis), and lots of other smaller, greener stuff.

Helleborus niger

Crocus vernus

Anemone nemorosa

Monday, 22 April 2013

Sibilatrix

Local patch: had several singing Wood Warblers around the patch today, including one heard from home. The last sibilatrix in my home area was several years ago, so today I was quite pleased to hear it again. And it was also a patch year-tick by the way.
A male Whinchat was still present in the garden (orchard actually) and a singing Black Redstart was performing on a roof. Not much else though... Plenty of Common Swifts & House Martins in the air, but still no big flocks of migrant hirundines.
Yesterday also a female Kestrel and two Ravens (local pair) were of note, together with a fly-by Linnet.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Spring on

Local patch: two migrant Whinchats (male and female) were present in the garden today (see above). Also mixed flock of +100 birds including House Martins, Swallows, Common and Alpine Swifts circling over the cliffs.

This afternoon I was also leading a small group of birders from a birdwatching course at Isola della Cona NR. The area was not particularly full of birds, but there were some nice spring arrivals like 6 WHITE-WINGED TERNS, 1 singing Cuckoo, +4 Whinchats, 1 Scops Owl (calling in complete daylight), 6 Wood Warblers, 5 Willow Warblers, 1 Great Reed Warbler. Other notable waterbirds included: 7 Garganeys, 5 Pygmy Cormorants, 4 Night Herons, 1 Purple Heron, 1 Cattle Egret, 5 Spoonbills, loads of Black-winged Stilts, 6 Little Ringed Plovers, Lapwing, 2 Temminck's Stints, 5 Little Stints, Wood & Green Sandpiper, 2 Common Redshanks, 1 Greenshank, 10 Black-tailed Godwits, 1 Curlew, 50-60 Ruffs. Other migrant passerines included several Sand Martins, Yellow Wagtails, Nightingales, Blackaps and 1 Lesser Whitethroat.

Yesterday I checked some meadows on the Karst for wildflowers:

My first Orchis morio this spring

Pulsatilla montana

Narcissus poeticus

 Potentilla australis

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Nightingale special

Local patch: spring is now in full bloom with green leaves and lush grass appearing everywhere and flowering trees exploding in white colour. There are several Nightingales singing at the woodland's edge and today I managed to watch one for quite a while as it delivered its song from an oak tree (above). It gave really brilliant views in full sunshine. I now presume more or less where this bird could be nesting.
Other birds of interest also included a Lesser Whitethroat, together with several Blackcaps, feeding on the blooming trees and a female Common Whitethroat nearby. But I still can't find a Subalpine Warbler in the patch this year...
Also lots of other commoner birds singing in the surroundings, like Green Woodpecker, Cirl Bunting, Black Redstart, Hawfinch, Serin and so on. House Martins and Common Swifts are now a usual sight in the sky and a few migrant Swallows pass by as well at times.
Scops Owls are now heard almost on a daily basis - usually late in the evening or at dusk.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

New in

Škocjanski zatok NR: a few new arrivals (year's firsts) today in the form of +6 Great Reed Warblers singing, 1 male Whinchat and most interestingly 1 Whimbrel (above) and a Marsh Sandpiper both in the lagoon. For the last two species, this is my first time I see them in Škocjanski zatok. Quite cool.
Also of note were 1 Night & 1 Purple Heron, 4 Sedge Warblers, 9 Wood Sandpipers, 2 Ruffs, 4 Common Redshanks, 15 Common Terns and a small flock of Sand Martins.

In the evening I also found another "lost" Whimbrel in the bay of Lazzaretto/Lazaret, on the Slovene-Italian border.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Griffon Vultures on passage

Local patch: only birds of interest today were two GRIFFON VULTURES gliding along the karstic ridge at 14.30. I first spotted the "flying barn doors" as the passed through Monte Grisa, where they made a few soars (above) before gliding down southeast. 3rd record for the patch!

Sunday, 14 April 2013

RARE IN THE GARDEN

Local patch: this afternoon I was doing a bit of siesta on the terrace, when I caught a glimpse of a black-and-white bird darting from a perch in the distance. So I took the bins and had a look...it looked like an odd Pied Flycatcher or something...but it was still too far, so I took the scope and pointed: BLACK-EARED WHEATEAR - male! In the garden! I watched it for a while as it was fly-catching, frequently changing perches and flying around. Then I decided to enter the neighbour's garden to get closer and take some pics for documentation. And thus were made the above photos. The bird was performing really well in front of me, frequently sitting on fences and poles, down to 10-15 metres. Patch tick again!
The species is a rare visitor to the area of Trieste and actually to this whole part of north-eastern Italy and a rarity in nearby Slovenia. Two years ago I found another two birds on the Karst, which were also a major find.
If we stay in the garden, the situation was quite lively these past couple of days. Yesterday I had two delightful male COMMON REDSTARTS present for much of the afternoon (below), along with a female Common Whitethroat - the first this year. Actually also the Redstart was a first, and a quite pleasant one to find in the garden.
Today instead I had a Lesser Whitethroat and a Willow Warbler around, feeding on the blooming Prunus trees.
Nightingale, Common Swift, House Martin and Alpine Swift are now all regular daily birds in the patch. Also some Linnets fly overhead quite regularly, together with a Serin or two.

 Handsome male Common Redstart

Today I also attended a meeting with my local ornithological society where a small "dawn chorus trip" was organised. We visited the Doberdob lake NR which held a good variety of passerine migrants. The highlight here was the first HOOPOE of the year (on the heathland). Other birds of note included 1 Subalpine Warbler (male), 1 Wryneck, +5 Wood Warblers, 1 female Pied Flycatcher, 3 Lesser Whitethroats, 2 Common Whitethroats, 3 Sardinian Warblers. The poplar trees were also full of Willow Warblers, Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs. Up to 4 Nightingales were singing loudly and showing perfectly in the leaf-less bushes. On the lake itself just 2 Tufted Ducks of note. 

Friday, 12 April 2013

Ticking patch

Local patch: yesterday it was a good day for migration so I headed up to the cliffs. Amazingly the area managed to produce yet another two new species for the patch list. The first was a CRAG MARTIN flying past the cliffs, followed 5 minutes later by 4 SPOONBILLS migrating east! I managed a pic of the latter (above). This rises the patch list to 158 species. Not bad at all.
Later in the afternoon a flock of 35 Curlews heading east was also pretty unusual. But this seasonal movements happen once or twice every year, so I wasn't that surprised after all.
The first 2 returning Nightingales for the patch were singing down in the wood - one showing so well, because of the complete lack of green leaves on the bushes. The poor bird looked a bit out of place.
Also the first Lesser Whitethroat this year in the patch, +6 Willow Warblers, 2-3 Chiffchaffs (singing), +50 Swallows, single House Martins, 8 Alpine Swifts, 1 Siskin (overhead), Blackcap, 1 Serin, 1 Tree Pipit, 1 Yellow Wagtail (flew past - only the 2nd for the patch), 2 Rock Buntings, 1 Song Thrush, 2 Crested Tits.
A nice male Blue Rock Thrush was finally on territory, performing a song-flight in front of the cliff faces.
Raptors included 1 Goshawk soaring together with a Sparrowhawk, 2 Marsh Harriers (m & f migrating E), 1 Kestrel and 3 Buzzards. The local pair of Ravens seemed to be a problem for the Alpine Swifts, as they kept alarming when the corvids were in the sky.
 Euphorbia wulfenii now in full bloom all over the cliffs